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Impressive Ann Young Exhibit Include Landscapes, Portraits

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by David K. Rodgers

HARDWICK – The artist Ann Young, of Barton, is having an impressive exhibition of her paintings at the Third Floor Gallery in the Hardwick Inn on Main Street. They consist of eight large works often with powerful political messages, nine medium sized peaceful landscapes, and then some twenty-two smaller, remarkable individual portraits.

“Gardenia” depicts a vibrant young Afro-American woman with flowers in her hair and on her shoulders, having a very confident expression on her face, the embodiment of genuine pride in being brown. Larger than life size, this painting has great presence! “I Have A Place Where I Go” takes us into a child’s private world, with a young girl wearing a red shirt and blue dungarees, seated in a grassy field, looking very intently at the viewer in a combination of curiosity and questioning. There is a strong sense of immediacy in the composition and her

compelling stare.

“A Brief History of Thomas Moore” is something of a mystery in its title. In the foreground a boy and girl in summer clothes are standing by the seashore, running sand through their fingers. (possibly suggesting the passing of time?), but the boy is looking apprehensively toward a long line of people on a narrow path which leads to a castle on a distant hill. They all seem to be carrying things as though they are some kind of refugees, but the tents and lights in the area below the castle look almost festive. Very perplexing!

“The Triumph of Hope” shows a young woman waving a blue banner with white doves on it, from which other doves fly away to the right. In the background night scene, people are lighting small fires on the ground, giving a pervasive orange tint to the work. Traditionally, the dove is a symbol of peace, and another canvas, “The Last, Best Hope” utilizes the doves in a similar way. Here a young man with a black hat, a light greenish jacket and dark pants holds up a rectangle of paper from which doves flutter into space. The architecture behind him evokes Mexico and the coils of razor wire suggest the contentious border with the U.S.A., with the ongoing plight of refugees becoming an indictment of our cruel immigration policies. Powerful and imaginative images, beautifully painted.

“Legacy” illustrates by inference one of the worst acts of cultural genocide to Native Americans, which was that of taking children away from their parents on the reservations and forcing them to attend boarding schools in order to make them adopt the values of the dominant American society. In the foreground a young girl wears her indigenous clothing and braided hair, while behind her are the gray outlines of the oppressive schools. We have yet to deal honestly with the darker sides of our history.

Two particularly striking paintings are “The Gallows” and “Collateral Damage.” The former, with its allusions to the 19th Century French illustrations of peasants gathering the remains of the crops after harvest time, has here a highly ironic twist as three women pick through the trash of an extensive dump, with the cooling towers of nuclear reactors on the horizon. All the details are very carefully rendered. In the second work, a soldier wearing a camouflage uniform holds an automatic military assault rifle while an older man in a business suit stands behind him, one of his hands over the soldier’s eyes. In the lower right corner, his very young son and daughter are showing sadness and fear at their father going away to war, while in the middle left his wife is crying with her hands over her face. In the background, the rolling farm fields are painted as the stars and stripes of a huge American flag. This work communicates its message with stunning clarity.

The medium-sized landscapes have quite a different ambience, mostly of tranquil wilderness. They appear to be of local places in Vermont, though two with sandstone layered cliffs could be further west. The portraits have the smallest format, generally just showing the head and shoulders of the person with a neutral background. They capture the unique personalities of a great variety of human beings with consummate skill, having appropriate light on their faces and fine proportions in their placement within the frame.

This exhibition, which will continue through September, is well worth seeing for the excellence of the painting quality combined with deep meaning. For more information go online to: [email protected] or ann-young.com

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